It took Erin Morrissey more than a year to return to the court for Maryland volleyball after the outside hitter tore her ACL in 2021, just three points into her collegiate debut.
Morrissey weathered a 14-month recovery process before she checked in during the Terps’ match at Minnesota last season on Nov. 11. But she struggled to find playing time upon returning. She appeared sparingly throughout the rest of 2022 and saw action in less than half of Maryland’s first 27 matches in 2023.
Morrissey showed flashes of proficiency in her limited playing time, including a nine-kill outing against Le Moyne earlier this season. But the redshirt junior said her knee still wasn’t quite fully healthy after that match and longed for a moment that made her feel as though she had truly returned to form.
She finally got it Sunday against Ohio State, one day after the first anniversary of her return from injury. In just her fourth start of the season, Morrissey ripped a career-high 12 kills past the Buckeyes, including a cluster of putaways that powered the Terps’ third-set comeback in their first win in over two weeks.
“It’s been like, a full-circle moment just to be out there and be with my friends and competing and playing the sport I love,” she said. “It’s been a hell of a journey.”
Morrissey matched her previous career-best in the third set with her ninth putaway, which tied the frame at 17 as Maryland climbed toward a sweep. That hill grew steeper after Ohio State churned out the next four points, but Morrissey and the Terps didn’t panic.
“Just trying to come together as a team and be like, ‘Hey, it doesn’t even matter that we’re down,’” Morrissey said on how she rallied her squad. “‘We’ve come back from this before.’”
Morrissey took over with her team down four. First, she halted the Buckeyes’ run with her 10th kill, which secured her first-career double-digit putaway performance. After another Ohio State point, she and Eva Rohrbach repelled Lauren Murphy’s spike to ignite what became one of Maryland’s most vital service runs of the afternoon.
A pair of Buckeye errors pulled the Terps within a point before Morrissey caught a break on the subsequent rally. She fluttered a soft tap at the net that Ohio State’s Emily Londot easily smothered back toward Maryland’s side, but the ball landed just far enough out of bounds for a kill that squared the set at 22.
Morrissey delivered her final putaway with more emphasis.
After both teams scratched across another point, Morrissey walloped a spike that ricocheted off of a diving Buckeyes defender and carried well out of bounds as the frenzied Pavilion crowd rose to its feet.
The Terps’ ace on the ensuing serve sealed Maryland’s first win in four matches and delivered Morrissey the long-awaited validation of her difficult recovery journey.
“One of the challenges in sports is that you work really hard to give yourself a window of opportunity, and then sometimes it’s not there for you the first or second try,” coach Adam Hughes said. “That’s why I respect Morrissey. She just keeps going.”
Six of Morrissey’s kills came within the final 10 points of a set. For Hughes, those clutch swings were long overdue. In the Terps’ three-game losing streak entering Sunday, they repeatedly failed to produce putaways late in contested frames.
“Those are key kills for us that we’ve been searching for,” he said.
Morrissey provided them in the first set against Ohio State to help Maryland preserve its 21-20 lead, the same advantage the Terps squandered in the first frame of their 3-0 loss last Sunday at Michigan.
And after chipping in three more kills throughout the next set and a half, Morrissey seized control of the match in the third frame. Her heroics not only delivered Maryland a much-needed win, but also captured the signature moment that punctuated her comeback.